Friday, November 26, 2010

Vegan Thanksgiving

This year, I went to a Thanksgiving potluck that was hosted by some other students from my graduate program. I was pretty sure that I would be the only vegan at the potluck, so I decided to make my own version of a few of the "staple" dishes that other people had volunteered to bring. I also made some vegan side dishes and desserts to share with everyone. Here is what I made:

-Cornbread with vegan honey butter
-Sweet potatoes and apples in an "autumn spice"-flavored sauce
-Cornbread sage stuffing
-Handmade faux turkey from Cafe Indigo, wrapped in a phyllo dough "skin"
-Herbed gravy
-Pumpkin coconut creme brulee

The best part is that I was able to prepare all of this stuff in only 4 hours (without any help). I thought I would share some of my tasty recipes and time-saving tricks with you, dear blog readers!

Cornbread with Honey Butter

For the cornbread, I used Trader Joe's cornbread mix. The Trader Joe's cornbread mix is the best instant cornbread mix that I've found on the market AND it's vegan. In order to make the finished product vegan, I just substitute 1.5 tsps of Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 TBSPs of water for the "1 egg" that is mentioned on the back of the mix.

In order to make the honey butter, I combined 1/2 lb of Earth Balance, 1/8 cup of Just Like Honey Rice Nectar, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract in an electric mixer. After mixing at a medium speed for 5 minutes, the texture because creamy and smooth. I transferred the mixture to a piece of waxed paper, formed it into long cylinder, then carefully wrapped and refrigerated it for 4 hours.

Sweet Potatoes and Apples

You can find my Sweet Potatoes and Apples recipe here (it's an old favorite).

Cornbread Sage Stuffing

I just used a mix this year (Olivia's Cornbread Stuffing). In order to make it vegan, I substituted Earth Balance for butter and vegetable broth for chicken stock. I wanted to give my stuffing a little extra "oomph" (and I was running low on large baking pans), so I spooned the stuffing into cupcake papers and baked them in a muffin tin. Rather than looking like a giant blob of toasted bread and onions, my stuffing looked pretty chic (if I do say so myself!).

Faux Turkey with Phyllo Dough Skin

Every year, I go back and forth about whether to get a faux turkey. I'm not a huge fan of Tofurkey, so ever since Unturkey went off of the market, I've been searching for a worthy product to take its place. The best option that I have found so far is a handmade seitan turkey from Cafe Indigo. $20 will get you a full-sized faux turkey, while $10 will get you a half-turkey (easily enough for 4 people, if everyone has 1 generously-sized slice). The seitan turkey has a nice gamey texture and comes filled with a savory stuffing.

I've found that adding a phyllo dough "skin" really adds a level of sophistication to an otherwise bland faux turkey, so I've been doing this for years. All that you have to do is melt some Earth Balance in the microwave and spoon it onto layers of phyllo dough as you wrap them around your faux turkey. After 8-10 layers and 45 minutes in the oven, your "turkey" will have a delicious flaky buttery slightly-browned "skin."

Savory Herb Gravy

I like to use the Savory Herb Gravy Mix by Road's End Organics. It's easy, fast and relatively inexpensive. One sauce packet is enough gravy for 2-4 people (depending on how liberally your spread it over your faux turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing etc.) and it's extremely easy to prepare. Just add 1 cup of water to the mix and pop it on the stove for 10 minutes (stirring continuously).

Pumpkin Coconut Creme Brulee

I posted a pumpkin creme brulee recipe a few years back, but here is my new-and-improved version. It has a much creamier texture and tastes just like the real thing.

1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk (for best results, use the unsweetened full-fat version)
4 TBSPs + 1 1/2 tsps cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk (or other vegan milk product of choice)
2 TBSPs of canned pumpkin
1 tsp Allspice
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

Whisk together ingredients in a sauce pan. Whisking constantly, heat the mixture (over medium heat) until the texture starts to thicken. Note: The texture should be noticeably thicker than it was before. Reduce heat to low, continuing to whisk for another minute.

Pour the mixture into shallow ceramic cups, then immediately press plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight). When you are ready to eat the creme brulee, sprinkle a generous helping of sugar over the top of the custard (as evenly as possible) and torch the sugar (using a creme brulee torch) until it caramelizes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vaute Couture Pre-Order Special

There's no time like the present to order a fabulous new wool-free winter coat from Vaute Couture! For today only, there is a 45% pre-order discount off of the regular prices of the new 2010 line (Note: there may be additional pre-order specials at slightly smaller discount rates available after today).

I ordered a coat from Vaute Couture's first line last season and I love it! The eco-friendly fabric kept me warm through a long New Hampshire winter. I can't recommend these coats highly enough.

Here are a few of my picks from the 2010 line:

I love the asymmetric neckline on this coat. The length makes it a very elegant (and warm) choice.

I couldn't resist ordering this cute capelet for myself! The double layer of "wings" and tapered midsection set it apart from the other capes that I've seen this season.

This year marks the debut of men's coats at Vaute Couture. I love the Men's Pea, with its European (read: short and tight) fit and double-breasted design. This photo belongs on the cover of GQ!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vegan Couture: Spring/Summer 2010

So far, this blog has primarily focused on food and travel. From now on, I hope to add a seasonal "Vegan Couture" column, aimed at introducing my readers to fashionable apparel that is animal cruelty-free. Please let me know what you think of this new feature!

The original Valentino Petale Tote

The Valentino Petale Tote is so 2009. But knockoff versions seem to be popping up all over the place. Thanks to Big Buddha, you can enjoy a leather-free version of this beauty for a tiny fraction of the cost! All of Big Buddha's bags are guaranteed to be 100% animal-friendly and cruelty-free.
Rose Tote by Big Buddha
(available in several colors)


Gladiator booties by Michael Kors

Gladiator booties are everywhere this season. I can't seem to walk past a shoe store without seeing them in the display case. Unlike the ancient Romans, we are fortunate enough to have high-quality leather alternatives. Moo Shoes has several leather-free, gladiator-inspired sandals available on its website.

Bianca by Novacas

Cassie by Novacas

Cottisford Trench by Burberry

I've been drooling over the Cottisford Trench ever since Burberry introduced it last winter. Although the coat is 100% cotton (no animal products!), the price is 1000% higher than I would normally pay. Luckily for me, I was able to find a similar coat by Idra at my local Anthropologie store.

Two Paths Trench by Idra

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vegan Vacation: New York City

Alright, I'm not going to lie. There are more tourist attractions and vegan-friendly restaurants in NYC than I could ever hope to cover in a single blog entry. I'm just going to give a few of my favorites, but please feel free to share your own in the "comments" section!


Perhaps the trickiest part about visiting New York is finding reasonably-priced accommodations. In Manhattan, even the no-thrills hotels can be upwards of $300/night. So far, every "affordable" option that I've tried has been less-than-ideal. Here are a few of the better options that I've found:

Millennium Hilton

Built in 2000, the Millennium Hilton has spacious (for New York) rooms, modern amenities and a safe Wall Street location. What's the catch? It's across the street from Ground Zero, i.e. the former World Trade Center site. Construction ends around midnight, even on weekends, and isn't likely to stop until at least 2012. If you don't mind altering your sleep schedule to complement the construction schedule (or sleeping with the complimentary earplugs that the hotel provides), this place can be quite a steal. On some weekends, you can find rates as low as $150/night for a deluxe room with a king-sized bed.

The Chelsea Star Hotel

This offbeat wonder boasts some of the lowest hotel rates in all of Manhattan, as well as an outdoor rooftop lounge and free wi-fi internet access. It's located within 4 blocks of Penn Station. Many of the rooms have decorative themes, ranging from Madame Butterfly to Salvador Dali. What's the catch? The Chelsea Star is part hotel, part hostel and most of the rooms do not have private bathrooms. However, the bathrooms are exceptionally clean and there is a good guestroom-to-bathroom ratio, so if you keep an open mind, you might enjoy this hidden gem. Rooms start at $99/night.

Vegan-Friendly Restaurants:

Truffles at Cocoa V

Red Bamboo is a small Greenwich Village restaurant that serves vegetarian soul food, including some very realistic vegan buffalo wings (they even have tiny wooden "bones" inside). Save some room for dessert - Red Bamboo has several varieties of the best vegan cheesecake that you will ever taste.

Cafe Blossom is the casual counterpart to the upscale, all-vegan Blossom Restaurant. I actually prefer the food and ambience at Cafe Blossom. It features delicious dishes like "seitan ravioli in pesto broth topped with tofu ricotta" in a casual environment. Oh, and the Butterfinger shakes are to die for!

Counter is one of my favorite fancy vegetarian restaurants. It doesn't seem to get as much press as Blossom or Candle 79, but the veggies come from Counter's very own rooftop garden - how cool is that? The dishes can be ordered tapas-style, if you want to try a little of everything. Make sure to ask for one of the raunchily-named cocktails.

Vegetarian Dim Sum House is an all-vegetarian (mostly vegan) dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. Here, you can delight in faux pork buns, shrimp dumplings, red bean cakes, banana wontons, taro balls... Order everything that piques your curiosity - the prices are amazingly cheap.

Cocoa V is a chic dessert cafe in Chelsea. The completely vegan menu boasts 30+ flavors of truffles, as well as a nut cheese plate, cupcakes, chocolate tarts, brownies and a "whimsical quiche of the day." It wins my vote for "most romantic vegan date spot" in NYC.

Hungry for an all-vegan ice cream sundae? Look no further than Greenwich Village! Lula's Sweet Apothecary and Stogo are two of the only all-vegan ice cream parlors in the world. Lula's feels like an old-fashioned soda shop, from the vintage ads covering the walls to the banana splits and egg cremes gracing the menu. Stogo is more like a hip gelato bar, with innovative flavors such as cardamom pistachio and mexican spiced chocolate.


'Big Bambu' at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a behemoth of an art museum - it even contains an entire Egyptian temple! In addition to an extensive Egyptian collection, the Met is also well-known for its period rooms: reproductions of rooms from various historical periods in both the US and Europe, containing (mostly) original furniture and wall coverings. The special exhibits range from haute couture to interactive eco-art installations to famous paintings on loan from other museums.

The Sauna Village at Spa Castle

Spa Castle is located in Queens, but it's worth the trek. It provides a unique combination of European spa with traditional Asian saunas, plus a heated rooftop swimming pool that is open year-round. Each sauna is elaborately decorated with gemstones and minerals that are supposed to have healing powers. The cafe has several vegan options, including edamame, vegetable sushi and an extensive salad bar. $45 gets you a day's worth of relaxation and inner peace.

Some of the 18 miles of books...

The Strand boast 18 miles of new, used, rare and out-of-print books. It's fun to wander through the sea of books to see what you can find.

Alice in Wonderland statue

One cannot visit NYC without walking through Central Park (even if it's just to get from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side). Indulge your inner child with a ride on the carousel or a visit to the Alice In Wonderland statue.

Sign in front of the Comedy Cellar

The Comedy Cellar provides great standup comedy at affordable prices. On some nights, you can even see world-famous comedians!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Update: Vegan Frappuccinos Now Available!

Starbucks announced that its new However-You-Want-It Frappuccino® wouldn't be available until May 5th. However, my local Barnes and Noble Cafe (which sells Starbucks beverages) rolled out its new Frappuccinos today. As I write this post, I'm sipping on a delicious soy caramel Frappuccino!

Sadly, it seems that a large number of customers are writing terrible things about the new Frappuccino on the Starbucks website and begging Starbucks to go back to the old recipe. If you appreciate the fact that Starbucks is reaching out to its vegan customers, I urge you to leave comments on the website in support of the new recipe!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Starbucks Introduces Vegan Frappuccinos!


That's right. Starting on May 5th, vegans can enjoy one of the Starbucks products that has long eluded us: The Frappuccino. Unlike most Starbucks drinks, which can be made with a variety of milk options (including soy milk!), Frappuccinos have always been made with a base that contains 2% milk. I, for one, can't wait to order my first mocha Frappuccino after more than 7 years of going Frappuccino-free!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vegan Vacation: Quebec City


Le Chateau Frontenac is the most famous landmark in Quebec City. It's a grand old European-style building that holds the record for being the most photographed hotel in the Guiness Book of World Records. During high season (summer and Winter Carnival weekends) room rates can start at $400/night. However, if you go during an off-peak time, you may be able to find a room for as low as $200/night. This place is seriously elegant. Just walking through the lobby made me feel like a movie star!

A room at the Hotel Vieux Quebec

For those who can't afford to stay at the Chateau Frontenac, the Hotel Vieux Quebec is right around the corner. Hotel Vieux Quebec is a small family-owned hotel with outstanding guest service. The rooms are very spacious and the hotel makes a serious effort to be as eco-friendly as possible. The breakfast - orange juice and pastries, delivered to your door in a picnic basket - isn't the most vegan-friendly, but if you call ahead they may be able to substitute extra rolls instead of croissants (our basket came with a mix of the two). The good news is that the rolls come with a delicious (and entirely vegan) maple "cream" spread.

Vegan-Friendly Restaurants:

Bento box meal at Restaurant Zen

Restaurant Zen is an all-vegetarian Asian restaurant that features some interesting mock meat dishes. If you make a reservation ahead of time, you can even participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Everything on the menu can be made vegan. The only downside is that Restaurant Zen is a little over two miles away from Vieux Quebec. A $12 taxi ride will get you there.

Le Commensal is a pay-by-weight vegetarian buffet restaurant that is conveniently located two blocks away from the walls of the Old City. The vegan items are plentiful and well-labeled. Le Commensal is one of the few places in Quebec City that has vegan desserts, such as carrot cake and coconut tapioca pudding.

Chez Victor is a burger restaurant that has four types of veggie burgers on the menu - a tofu burger, a veggie pate burger, a wheat burger and a spinach and nut burger. If you are vegan, make sure to tell your waiter to hold the cheese and to serve your fries with Ketchup instead of aoli sauce.

Attractions in Quebec City:

Vieux Quebec:

Vieux Quebec or the "Old City" is filled with narrow streets, quaint shops, somewhat less-quaint souvenir shops, street performers and, at times, ice sculptures. It's a nice place just to walk around. You can tell that you're in Vieux Quebec because there are stone walls surrounding it.

Musee de la Civilisation:

The Musee de la Civilisation is a quirky museum that features an interesting assortment of exhibits. While I was at the museum, I saw a display of Egyptian mummies (complete with CAT scans and a model burial chamber that visitors could walk through), an interactive storytelling exhibit on the 7 Deadly Sins, and an exhibit on the aboriginal people of Quebec.

Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec:

The Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec is a large art museum that displays both international and Quebecois art, including some Inuit art. When I was in Quebec, there was a fascinating special exhibit on The Golden Age of Haute Couture.

Nearby Attractions:

Cabane a Sucre:

A "Cabane a Sucre" or "sugar shack" is a cabin that sells maple treats. These can be found all over the province and are a good place to stop on your way to/from Quebec City. If you travel to Quebec during the winter, you can enjoy my favorite treat - hot maple syrup poured onto snow, which the customer picks up with a wooden stick. By the time that the syrup has cooled enough to be picked up, the maple has formed a thick, delicious taffy.

Hotel de Glace:

If you're visiting Quebec City during the winter months (January - March), make sure to visit the Hotel de Glace. The Hotel de Glace is a hotel that is made completely out of ice. While the hotel does offer guests a chance to spend the night, many more visitors opt to take a day tour instead. The hotel features a grand lobby, snack bar, drink bar, discotec, chapel, guest rooms and suites. This place has tons of photo opportunities, not to mention a giant ice slide that is available for visitors of all ages. Enjoy a drink at the ice bar, served in a glass made from ice! If you don't have a car at your disposal, the Hotel de Glace runs a shuttle service that picks up visitors from Quebec City.

Travel Advice:

If you visit Quebec City in the winter, make sure to pack appropriate clothing. Snow boots, winter coats, hats and gloves are a must. Canvas sneakers just won't cut it.